The US election 2020 saw a sizeable number of women, including a record number of women of colour, fighting for House seats.
An unparalleled 318 women were running as Democratic or Republican candidates for the 470 seats available across the House of Representatives and the Senate. The number suggests an increase from a previous record of 257 set in 2018.
Of those nominees 117 were women of colour, building on the 2018 midterm elections which saw high-profile women such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, in New York, and Ilhan Omar, in Minnesota, chosen.
Here are some of the candidates who scripted history in US elections:
Kamala Harris: She became the first woman and first daughter of immigrants ever elected as the Vice President of the United States. Born in California, Kamala’s father settled in the United States from Jamaica to study economics and her mother came from India while working toward becoming a breast cancer researcher. In 2010, she became the first black person and the first woman to be elected attorney general of the state of California, overseeing the second-largest Justice Department in the country behind only the U.S. Department of Justice.
Cori Bush: Bush became the first Black woman to represent Missouri in Congress after her win in the state’s first congressional district, which covers St. Louis and parts of St. Louis County. A community leader, Black Lives Matter activist, and nurse, Bush treated people as a medic during the Ferguson protests in 2014 after the police killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed Black man. Backed by Bernie Sanders among others, Bush ran on a progressive platform, advocating for criminal justice reform, Medicare for All and a Green New Deal.
Marilyn Strickland: Marilyn Strickland won her election in Washington’s tenth Congressional District, and will be the first Korean American woman ever elected to Congress, as well as the first African American person to represent Washington at the federal level.
Ana Irma Rivera Lassén: High profile lawyer and human rights activist Lassén won her election to the Puerto Rico Senate, making her the first Black, openly lesbian Puerto Rican to become an elected lawmaker. Rivera Lassén has a long and distinguished career in human rights law, with a focus on discrimination, gender-based violence, and in the 1980s, she sued a judge and won when she was refused entry into court in pants, as opposed to a dress or skirt.
Deb Haaland, Teresa Leger Fernandez and Yvette Herrell: New Mexico became the first state in U.S. history to elect only women of colour as members of Congress. The state’s three House seats were won by incumbent Democratic Rep. Deb Haaland, Democrat Teresa Leger Fernandez, and Republican Yvette Herrell.
Haaland is a citizen of the Pueblo of Laguna tribe, and made history in 2018 by becoming one of the first native American women to be elected to the House of Representatives. Herrell, also a native American belonging to the Cherokee Nation, beat Democratic incumbent Xochitl Torres Small. Leger Fernandez, a Latina from northern New Mexico, also became the first woman to represent her district.
Mauree Turner: She made history twice in 2020 US’s elections, becoming both Oklahoma’s first Muslim lawmaker and the first-ever openly non-binary state legislator in U.S. history. 27-year-old Turner is an activist, community organizer and native Oklahoman, with a background in campaigning for criminal justice reform.
Stephanie Byers: In Kansas, Stephanie Byers also broke boundaries twice over: she became the first openly trans person of colour ever elected to a state legislature in the U.S. and the first openly trans person elected to the Kansas state legislature. Byers will be representing the state’s 86th District, having campaigned on a platform focusing on education, Medicaid expansion and ending discrimination.
Jenifer Rajkumar: Indian-American lawyer and immigration rights advocate Rajkumar, 38, will become one of the first two South Asians voted in to the lower house of the New York state legislature, after her win in District 38 in New York City. She previously served as Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s director of immigration affairs and as special counsel for the New York State Department and is also a professor at CUNY’s Lehman College.
Apart from them, below are those women who have been re-elected:
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York: A former bartender, who was born in the Bronx, is the enigmatic star of the class of 2018, winning her seat in a primary and transforming her huge social media following into a measure of power on Capitol Hill.
Ocasio-Cortez, a self-described democratic socialist, has argued with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over the impact of newcomers. She has also been courted by some of the party’s many presidential candidates, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota: She was a child when her family flew from Somalia during a civil war in 1991. She spent many years in a refugee base camp in Kenya and immigrated to the US as a refugee in 1995. Omar became eligible for citizenship five years after the family entered. She became a US citizen in 2000.
In the House, she has repeatedly run up against more senior Democrats over her remarks about Israel and what she said was the need to question the Jewish state’s influence in Washington.
Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan: She is a native of Detroit and is the first Palestinian American elected to the House. She and Omar are the first Muslim American women to serve in the chamber.
And like Omar, Tlaib earned for herself almost instantly after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi enforced the new assembly session of Congress into session in January.
Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts: She is a native of Cincinnati and raised in Chicago. Pressley worked for Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy and worked for John Kerry for 13 years while he served in the Senate.
In 2009, she contested for an at-large seat on Boston City Council and became the first woman of colour elected to the institution in its 100-year history.
Sarah McBride: She may not be a woman of colour, but we can’t end this list without mentioning Sarah McBride. Mcbride became the first openly trans state senator in U.S. history after winning her election in Delaware, three years after Danica Roem became the first openly trans person ever to win a state legislature seat in Virginia. She was previously the press secretary of LGBTQ advocacy group the Human Rights Campaign and interned in 2012 in President Obama’s White House.